Making of the MindTree - I
Anjan left India in 1989 and went to Florida to do his MBA, where he topped his class. Then he joined a consulting company that eventually merged with Cambridge Technology Partners and Anjan went on to be very successful there.
Anjan and his young bride Purba came to see me at my relative's house. They had moved in to their new house a week back and insisted that I must spend a night with them. Anjan threw in an irresistible line to get me to agree - "there is a wooden deck in the house, overlooking a meadow that blends in to the woods. Early in the morning, as you sip tea on the deck, you can see deer that flock out of the woods and come to the meadow". The deal was made.
Next morning, sitting together with Anjan, I asked him to explain his work to me. Cambridge Technology Partners is a world leader in methodology driven "Rapid Application Development" in the client server domain. They were the first company to break the myth that any application development for a Fortune 500 company was necessarily an eighteen-month affair. Using a strong, consensus driven approach, Cambridge could establish a $600 million practice in the IT solutions space.
Soon, we were discussing life script issues. Anjan was doing extremely well in his work and had not yet nurtured any plans to leave Cambridge. Neither did he nurse ambitions to strike out on his own. Having listened to him, it was my turn to share my dreams. I explained the philosophy to Anjan. He was fascinated with the dream to create a truly solutions driven, truly international company. He was even more fascinated with the idea of making an up-front social commitment to change the face of one government school every year.
I asked him to check with Purba and I was willing to accept her disapproval. To my utter surprise, she was even more excited than Anjan. I gave KK a call and told him that we were three now. We rejoiced. Yet, there remained a vacuum. Where was the money?
We needed a sensible person who would be willing to fund our dream. A US based private equity fund manager and another one from Europe had already approached KK. Informally, both had hinted that if KK ever considered starting something, they would be willing to talk. Through a professional friend, I also came to know of an India based Venture Capitalist. KK and I agreed to check all of them out.
I met with the India based VC first. In his office in Bangalore, all I could tell him was our background and our philosophy in broad terms. He knew that we did not have a business plan yet; however, he suggested that we take the discussion forward anyway. At the end of the conversation, he fumbled for a moment. How would he present the opportunity to his boss? What could I give that he could take to his Managing Director? Anticipating this moment, I had prepared my CV and had carried it in my briefcase. I took it out and with infinite grace, he accepted that as sufficient documentation to invite us for a round two discussion.
Separately, KK and I also met up with two gentlemen representing the US based private equity fund. They too were quite encouraging. Yet, we knew, beyond initial interest, what we really needed is a well-documented business plan. We were beginning to crystallize our thoughts in that direction. Between KK, Anjan and myself, we had a good enough starting point, yet there remained a void. We needed a strong Technology Leader. We decided to speak with two outstanding individuals KK and I knew. One was an excellent application person - the other was an acknowledged star in the technology domain. We wanted both.
When I spoke with them individually, the applications person agreed immediately. The technology person came back with thirty odd questions and my first long grilling took place. In my barely furnished apartment on Airport Road of Bangalore, the meeting with the potential Head Nerd lasted four hours.
At the end of those four grueling hours, I knew two things. One, he was probably on. Two, we did have a convincing story. He agreed to check with his wife and come back soon.
This was already November of 1998. By this time, we had agreed that the best way to make progress would be to take off from our regular work, get holed in to a hotel, far away from Bangalore and think through the Mission, Vision, and a first-cut business plan that could be given to potential Venture Capitalists. We thought the Christmas week would be the ideal time and we now needed to settle the venue. Bangalore was ruled out. So was Mysore. Taking a hotel in either place would lead to exposure. Half the IT world knew KK and the other half, I would like to believe, knows me. In the light of our soft arrogance, we thought, we needed a far away place where no one would know us.